Wednesday, August 17, 2005


On The Journey Toward Right Use of Power
written by LISA CATALDO

The man in front of me was six feet tall and in his late twenties - much younger than I am - and the gleam in his eye said, "I'm going to hit you." Then he bowed, never taking his eyes from mine. As I bowed back, I glanced at the black belt around his waist and thought of my own recently earned yellow belt. I had been proud of that achievement, but now I wanted to run as fast as I could. What was I thinking? A middle-aged woman should not be wearing boxing gloves and facing off with a young man, protective gear notwithstanding. It isn't dignified. It isn't age-appropriate. It isn't safe.

I thought I heard amusement in my teacher's voice when he hit the bell and yelled "Fight!" After the longest two minutes in the world, the bell rang again. We bowed to each other again, and the black belt smiled at me. "You did great. Next time, keep your hands up, and throw more."

I was alive! As I walked home, I realized that I had truly expected to be badly hurt in my first fight. After all, my sparring partner had age, power, and skill to his advantage. I had assumed he would use all of that to its maximum because he could, and because doing so would make him look great in front of the teacher. But instead he challenged me just enough - the punches really landed, and they really hurt, but they were gauged to make me respond, to fight back, to defend myself and learn in the process. There were many other opponents of his skill level, whom he would be glad to fight with all he had, but with me he knew his role was to use his power judiciously to empower me to believe in myself.

It was an astounding revelation. Now, three years later, I am preparing for my own black belt promotion. Now there are many yellow belts who, facing off with me, feel that same fear. Will I hurt them? Will I use my power to make myself look good or to humiliate them? But I have learned at the hands of the best teachers - power is to be used to lead others to new levels of accomplishment and insight. This use of power makes me understand better the power of God, whose "might" is beyond measure but who chooses to be incarnate among us and to share our weakness. God's power is "power-with" and not "power-over," the kind of power that challenges us to respond, to grow into our best selves, and to create with God a world where all are empowered to love, to grow, and to be whole.

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